‘Stretch your branches to the sun. Be a tree!’
In this standout picture book, Maria Gianferrari invites us to compare ourselves to the beauty and majesty of trees, and this central metaphor provides an ongoing context for gentle exhortations to live life to the full. In focusing on our similarities, the lyrical text invites us to look at our world from new perspectives and helps us bond with living organisms that may seem different but with whom we share so much.
‘Wave your leaves in the wind, breathe in air, drink in sun, let them fuel you and the world’
The message that people, like trees, are healthier and happier when they connect is implicit throughout, and is explored in a more direct way on an affecting gatefold spread. A lonely man – the sole visitor to a wintery park – is huddling against a large bag on a bench. ‘Immigrant trees, away from their native habitats, are vulnerable,’ observes the text. As we open the gatefold, Spring arrives, and with it come people, who walk and talk and play in caring, interactive groups. ‘But together,’ the text continues, ‘a forest of trees is strong.’ The man’s family has joined him on the bench, and everything has changed.
This is a book that will appeal to adults/teens as well as younger readers. Pleasing compositions and expressive characters draw us into Felicita Sala’s artwork, which has a confident sophistication and cheerful accessibility that gives it wide appeal. Intriguing visual ideas are explored, and Sala adds layers of meaning to the text (introducing trees in different habitats; using snails to extend the idea of curling and coiling; providing a context for change over time) without losing sight of the need to engage children who may have little experience of picturebooks.
Be a Tree! Includes five pages of factual information together with sources of further reading and viewing. The cover of the hardback edition features a text-free design, which differs from the dustjacket (so do peep inside for a visual treat!) and the delicate paintings of leaves on the endpapers are an added bonus.